La chitarra della Signora Margherita Costa Romana canzoniere amoroso dedicata al Sereniss. Ferdinando II. Gran Duca di Toscana.
Frankfurt: Per Daniel Wastch, 1638.
Quarto: 23 x 16.7 cm. [16, including the engraved oval portrait of the author within a cartouche], 584 pp. Collation: [π]4, †4, A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Zzz4, Aaaa-Cccc4, 2Cccc4.
Bound in 19th-century polished calf, panels with blind- and gilt-stamped border and fillets, richly gilt spine with lettering piece, very nicely re-backed. Small tear to leaf E4 with no loss, a bit of soiling to leaf S1, small repaired hole in the center of ll. Zz3-4, with a few words made good (almost imperceptibly), some light foxing and staining; title, half-title, verso of last leaf, and a few other leaves soiled or with small stains; a few leaves with a very light damp-stain in the blank margin, but a fine, wide-margined copy on thick paper. With a fine etching (De Vesme/Massar 32.I) of the author by Stefano della Bella (1610-1664). Provenance: Spine gilt-stamped with monogram WSD (William, 6th Duke of Devonshire); on the front pastedown engraved bookplate of Chatsworth House.
Extremely rare first edition, issued with what is believed to be a false imprint (“Frankurt”) by an imaginary printer (“Daniel Wastch”) and instead presumably published in Italy, of the love poems of Margherita Costa, feminist, courtesan, playwright and ‘virtuosa’, called to sing before Roman nobility and the courts of Florence and Paris, who is considered as the most Baroque of the Italian women poets of the seventeenth century.
“Margherita Costa was one of the most prolific female authors of seventeenth-century Europe. As a singer and rumored courtesan, she made her way in the courts and theatres of Rome, Florence, Turin, Paris, Venice, and perhaps even Germany. Costa was a 'virtuosa' performer on both stage and page: between 1630 and 1654, a period marked by a decline in secular women's writing in Italy, she produced fourteen full-length printed works across a remarkable range of genres, topics, and registers. Her unique position on the margins of courtly society allowed Costa to move more freely across the literary stage than any other female writer of her generation, switching easily between high and low style, decorous elegance and erotic allusions, encomiastic speeches and satirical parody. This literary versatility, combined with her talent as a performer, earned her the support of an enviable collection of elite patrons, including the Medici, the Barberini, the French royal house, and the Dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Though this charismatic 'virtuosa' inspired admiration in her contemporaries and left behind an astounding literary legacy, her oeuvre remains understudied […] Her journey opens a window onto the society and culture of a travelling musician and woman writer with a striking ability to succeed in an environment increasingly hostile to female public engagement” (A.-L. Wagner, ‘Io fui, et sono, et sarò Margarita’: Margherita Costa as ‘Virtuosa’ on the Literary Stage of the Seicento, Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Cambridge, UK).
“La chittara” is dedicated to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand II. After the dedication and the preliminary poems, there is a general half title (l. †4r) which announces the plan of the book: “Rime amorose della Signora Margherita Costa Romana compartite in Ottave, Sonetti, Idillj, e Canzonette”. The three final sections open with a separate half title: “Sonetti dell’auttora a diversi” (l. Ddd3r); “Idili amorosi dell’auttora a diversi” (l. Qqq3r); and “Canzonette amorose dell’auttora” (l. Ttt3r). At the end is a poem by Andrea Salvadori entitled “I Caramogi overo gl’amanti abbozzati ai signori begl’imbusti” (l. Zzz1v), followed by Costa’s risposta, “I begl’imbusti a gli sig. amanti abbozzati” (l. Zzz4v). On last leaf verso, after the index, is a sonnet by the printer to the author.
Born in Rome around 1600 into a modest family, Maria Margherita Costa became a renown and appreciated poet, singer, and courtesan. For her Domenico Mazzocchi composed the opera “La catena d’Amore” with a libretto by Ottavio Tronsarelli and the occasion inflamed the rivalry with the singer Cecca del Padule: around the two ‘virtuose’ formed two antagonist parties led by Giovan Giorgio Aldobrandini (for Costa) and Giovan Domenico Lupi (for Cecca). Due to a series of unknown events, in 1628, Costa left Rome for Florence. In 1638 she published with a fake Frankfurt printing address the poem collections “La chitarra” and “Il violin”, both dedicated to Ferdinando II, and in 1639 at Venice “Lo stipo”, dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici. She also composed the love letter collection “Lettere amorose” (Venice, 1639) and two “Commedia dell’arte” plays “La Flora feconda” and “Li buffoni” (Florence, 1640 and 1641). After a brief sojourn in Turin, in 1645 Costa returned to Rome. Thanks to the intercession of the cardinals Antonio and Francesco Barberini, in 1646 she was called to perform in Paris by Cardinal Mazzarino together with other chamber virtuosos of Cardinal Antonio. At Paris in 1647 she published the “Festa reale per balletto a cavallo”, the “Selva di Diana”, and “La tromba di Parnaso”. After 1647 she once again returned to Rome after supposed stays in Germany and Florence. Costa’s last known work is the “Gli amori della Luna” (Venice, 1654), a drama dedicated to the Dukes of Brunswick. She is said to have had a love affair with the actor Bernardino Ricci called Tedeschino, to whom “Li buffoni” is dedicated, and with a former Calabrian bandit, Fra’ Paolo, confidant of the Grand Duke, later again mysteriously imprisoned. Costa’s death’s date in uncertain.
Italian Union Catalogue, ITICCUBVEE 38732; V. Cox, Women’s Writing in Italy, 1400-1650, Baltimore, 2008, pp. 243 and 384; N. Costa-Zalessow & J.E. Borrelli, eds., Voice of a virtuosa and courtesan: selected poems of Margherita Costa: a bilingual edition, New York, 2015; Michel & Michel, II, 139. For the portrait, De Vesme/Massar 1971 “Stefano della Bella”, 32.I